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Although some would argue that going barefoot is more natural for the horse in the long run, the fact remains that barefoot horses still face many of the same health concerns that shod horses do — and perhaps are at greater risk for developing complications from walking on man-made or rough terrains. Yet when a client insists that their horse is better off barefoot, what can a farrier do?
Years ago, there were no alternatives to traditional horseshoes. Now, farriers can recommend nontraditional solutions to owners who would rather their horses go barefoot. One of these solutions is the hoof boot. The use of hoof boots to protect the barefoot horse was recently made the focus of two studies conducted at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Ky.
In 2017, Dr. Jennifer Gill, assistant professor of equine science in the university’s Agricultural Equestrian Unit, and undergraduate student Tabatha Stratton researched the potential benefits hoof boots can have for barefoot horses. To examine how hoof boots can benefit the horse, Gill and Stratton looked at two different areas in which hoof boots might support the foot: relieving pressure from concussive forces and offering protection to the external hoof wall. They presented their findings at this year’s International Hoof-Care Summit (IHCS).